x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Fabregas ready to return

The Spanish midfielder and Gunners captain is back to full fitness while Eduardo is relishing chance to play at Emirates again with Shakhtar.

Cesc Fabregas, centre, the Arsenal midfielder and captain, has not played in the first team since injuring his hamstring in last month’s 1-1 Premier League draw against Sunderland.
Cesc Fabregas, centre, the Arsenal midfielder and captain, has not played in the first team since injuring his hamstring in last month’s 1-1 Premier League draw against Sunderland.

Cesc Fabregas has handed Arsenal a boost ahead Sunday's Premier League encounter with Manchester City after returning to training yesterday.

The Spain midfielder, who has not played since the Gunners' 1-1 draw at Sunderland last month, trained with his teammates at Arsenal's base in London Colney ahead of tonight's Champions League game against Ukraine side Shakhtar Donetsk.

Fabregas, 23, is now almost certain to start at City on Sunday in what is an early season meeting of title contenders. City are second after eight games, three points ahead of Arsenal in third.

Arsene Wenger's side have suffered a dip in form since Fabregas suffered a hamstring injury, losing to West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea before stuttering to a 2-1 win over Birmingham City at the weekend.

Wenger, though, will give plenty of thought as to whether he should throw Fabregas straight back into the action tonight.

"Cesc has prepared well. He had a little setback, but got over the hurdle and is ready to play at full fitness, but whether I start him or not, I do not know yet," Wenger said.

"It will be whether I take a gamble or not, because he has been out for a long time. But physically he is ready and fit and wanting to play."

Wenger added: "You know his influence on our team, he is our leader, our passer, he has a good level of assists and a good goalscoring record. Ideally you want him in the team."

Arsenal will meet a familiar opponent against Shakhtar, with Eduardo da Silva returning to the club just three months after they sold him.

Eduardo scored twice for Arsenal in last season's Champions League, but the Croatian striker was sold to the Ukraine champions to make way for Marouane Chamakh, a summer signing from Bordeaux, after three years in London.

"Even before the draw was made, I dreamed of playing against Arsenal and playing in front of the fans again at the Emirates," Eduardo said.

Wenger admits it was somewhat emotional to see the Brazil-born forward leave, the 27-year-old having fought his way back to full fitness following a horrific broken leg and dislocated ankle at Birmingham in February 2008.

"I will be happy and sad to see Eduardo," Wenger said. "Happy because he was always a fantastic boy with a fantastic mentality, he just had the class of an Arsenal player, and sad because I worked very hard to get him here and he left with the feeling that he could not completely fulfil the promise he had in the first season.

"That was basically down to the fact he was injured for a long time."

Arsenal v Shakhtar, 10.45pm, Aljazeera Sport +3